Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Proposed Gas Drilling Ordinance Advances Forward in Murrysville Setback Agreement Ends Stalemate

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Proposed Gas Drilling Ordinance Advances Forward in Murrysville Setback Agreement Ends Stalemate

Article excerpt

Murrysville council compromised on the setback distance but pushed its proposed Marcellus Shale drilling ordinance forward by voting it into pending status last week.

From this point forward, all proposed drilling operations in the municipality will have to meet the requirements of the ordinance when it is final. Council members David Perry, Joan Kearns, Loren Kase, Jeffery Kepler and Joshua Lorenz voted in favor, while councilman William Vance opposed. Councilman Regis Synan abstained, citing his desire to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

Two weeks ago, the council was stalemated in a tie vote on the same course of action. Paul Burke, vice president and general counsel for Huntley and Huntley, Inc., a gas drilling company holding mineral rights leases to 5,800 acres in Murrysville, pointed out that his company was denied a seat on the task force and refused a request to make a presentation.

On Oct. 8, councilman David Perry explained that the process of drafting the ordinance was designed to prevent legal challenges in the future.

"If council designs an ordinance to benefit a single entity, we'll get sued for special legislation. Huntley was not requested to be on the task force because of the possibility of charges of special legislation," he explained. "If we don't go forward by putting this ordinance into pending status, we cannot have discussions with Huntley and the lease holders and work that input into the law."

Thirty-seven speakers stepped to the podium, many urging council not to vote the ordinance into pending status. Several attacked the draft ordinance based on statements that it was modeled after similar law regulating gas drilling in Maryland.

"I question the Maryland issue," said Ed Valentas, a land manager for Huntley and Huntley. "Why mirror yourself after someone who does not want drilling?"

"We evaluated information from a number of sources including Colorado and Texas where shale drilling is done and New York state which has decided not to allow it. We did not take Maryland's results and turn them into a template," responded Jim Morrison, chief administrator. According to Mr. Morrison the state of Maryland will allow shale drilling, but first conducted a thorough 24-month evaluation of the issue. …

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